Estimated read time: 5 min read

One Sentence Summary

A wealthy officer's act of pity leads to disastrous consequences in this haunting tale of love and regret.


"Beware of Pity" is a captivating novel written by Stefan Zweig, a renowned Austrian author. First published in 1939, the book tells a gripping story set in Vienna in the years leading up to World War I. With its exploration of human emotions, moral dilemmas, and societal expectations, "Beware of Pity" is considered one of Zweig's most acclaimed works.

Brief Synopsis

The novel is set in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, specifically in the fictional town of Hofdorf, near Vienna. The story revolves around Anton Hofmiller, a young cavalry officer stationed at a remote garrison. One evening, he attends a party at the estate of a wealthy local landowner, Herr von Kekesfalva. There, Anton becomes acquainted with Kekesfalva's daughter, Edith. Unaware that Edith is disabled and confined to a wheelchair, Anton invites her to dance. This innocent but thoughtless act sets off a chain of events that will forever alter the lives of those involved.

Main Characters

Character NameDescription
Anton HofmillerThe young cavalry officer who unintentionally causes a series of tragic events.
Edith von KekesfalvaThe disabled daughter of Herr von Kekesfalva, who becomes infatuated with Anton.
Herr von KekesfalvaThe wealthy landowner and Edith's father.
Dr. CondorThe local physician who becomes involved in the unfolding events.

Summary of Story Points over Chapters

Chapter 1: The Party

Anton attends a party at the Kekesfalva estate and meets Edith. He invites her to dance, not realizing she is disabled.

Chapter 2: The Invitation

Anton feels guilty for his thoughtless invitation and visits Edith to apologize. He is drawn into a friendship with her.

Chapter 3: The Lie

Anton feels pressured to continue his visits to Edith, even though he does not have romantic feelings for her. He tells a lie to appease her.

Chapter 4: The Engagement

Edith misinterprets Anton's lie as a declaration of love and believes they are engaged. Anton is torn between his duty to Edith and his own desires.

Chapter 5: The Revelation

Anton confesses his true feelings to Edith, devastating her. She falls into a deep depression, and Anton is plagued by guilt.

Chapter 6: The Tragedy

Edith's depression worsens, and she attempts suicide. Anton is filled with remorse and seeks redemption.

Chapter 7: The Aftermath

Anton is wracked with guilt and tries to make amends for his past actions. The consequences of his actions continue to haunt him.

Main Events

  1. Anton's thoughtless invitation to dance with Edith at the party.
  2. Anton's guilt and subsequent visits to Edith.
  3. Anton's lie to Edith about his feelings.
  4. Edith's misunderstanding and belief that she is engaged to Anton.
  5. Anton's confession of his true feelings, leading to Edith's depression.
  6. Edith's suicide attempt.
  7. Anton's attempt to seek redemption and make amends.

Themes and Insights

1. The Weight of Pity

The novel explores the dangers of pity and the unintended consequences it can have on the lives of others. Anton's initial act of pity towards Edith sets off a chain of events that result in tragedy and remorse.

2. Moral Responsibility

"Beware of Pity" delves into the theme of moral responsibility and the consequences of our actions. Anton grapples with his moral obligations towards Edith, leading to guilt and a desperate need for redemption.

3. Society's Expectations

The novel also examines the constraints of societal expectations and how they can influence personal decisions. Anton's actions are driven, in part, by the pressure to conform to societal norms and expectations.

4. The Fragility of Emotions

Zweig explores the delicate nature of human emotions and how they can lead to both joy and despair. The characters in the novel experience a range of emotions, from infatuation to guilt, demonstrating the complex and unpredictable nature of human feelings.

Reader's Takeaway

"Beware of Pity" is a thought-provoking and emotionally charged novel that explores the consequences of pity and moral responsibility. Zweig's masterful storytelling keeps readers engaged as they witness the tragic events unfold and reflect on the complexities of human emotions. The book serves as a reminder of the power of our actions and the need to consider the impact they may have on others.


Stefan Zweig's "Beware of Pity" is a captivating novel that delves into the themes of pity, moral responsibility, societal expectations, and the fragility of emotions. Through a series of tragic events, the book explores the consequences of our actions and the weight of guilt. With its timeless insights into the human condition, "Beware of Pity" continues to resonate with readers, making it a classic work of literature.

Beware of Pity FAQ

  1. What is the genre of 'Beware of Pity'?

    The genre of 'Beware of Pity' is a psychological novel.

  2. Who is the author of 'Beware of Pity'?

    The author of 'Beware of Pity' is Stefan Zweig.

  3. When was 'Beware of Pity' first published?

    'Beware of Pity' was first published in 1939.

  4. What is the main theme of 'Beware of Pity'?

    The main theme of 'Beware of Pity' is the destructive nature of pity and the consequences it can have on both the giver and the recipient.

  5. What is the story of 'Beware of Pity' about?

    The story of 'Beware of Pity' revolves around a young Austro-Hungarian cavalry officer who becomes involved with a paralyzed young woman and the tragic consequences that follow.

  6. Is 'Beware of Pity' based on a true story?

    No, 'Beware of Pity' is a work of fiction and is not based on a true story.

  7. What is the writing style of 'Beware of Pity'?

    The writing style of 'Beware of Pity' is characterized by its psychological depth, introspection, and emotional intensity.

  8. Is 'Beware of Pity' a standalone novel or part of a series?

    'Beware of Pity' is a standalone novel and is not part of a series.

  9. Has 'Beware of Pity' won any awards?

    Although 'Beware of Pity' is highly regarded as one of Stefan Zweig's best works, it did not win any major literary awards.

  10. Is 'Beware of Pity' suitable for young readers?

    'Beware of Pity' contains mature themes and is recommended for adult readers.